Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

Lancaster is brimming with lovely views. One I never tire of is the first glimpse of Lancaster Castle as you travel into the city from the south.

It hits you where Scotforth Road turns into Greaves Road outside The Methodist Church, where the road starts to run downhill towards The Pointer and into the city centre beyond.

That said, as much as I and others may take pleasure in this panorama for many in years past it was dread sight to behold. When Lancaster Castle was the place where criminals from across the County of Lancashire were sent to hang, some travelling in from the south would no doubt feel churned up to see the first sight of their final destination. For this reason, the descent into Lancaster from Scotforth became known as Weeping Hill, as it was said the condemned would weep upon first seeing the castle rise over the landscape of sea and sky.

William Wordsworth is best known for being inspired by his native Lake District but it seems he also knew Lancaster. When he wrote a series of “Sonnets upon the Punishment of Death” in 1839/40 he was inspired to write:

This Spot - at once unfolding sight so fair

Of sea and land, with yon grey towers that still

Rise up as if to lord it over air-

Might sooth in human breasts the sense of ill,

Or charm it out of memory; yes might fill

The heart with joy and gratitude to God

For all his bounties upon man bestowed:

Why bears it then the name of “Weeping Hill”?

Thousands as toward yon old Lancastrian Towers,

A prison’s crown, along this way they past

For lingering durance or quick death with shame,

From this bare eminence thereon have cast

Their first look - blinded as tears fell in showers

Shed on their chains; and hence that doleful name.

All very melodramatic but never the less a sobering thought as I lay in my bed in the early morning listening to the traffic on “Weeping Hill” and wondering whether to get up. There are no tears nowadays but the van delivering bread to the Spar is fairly noisy.